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Austin Office of Police Oversight releases new body-worn and dashboard camera policy recommendations

The recommendations released come after resolutions passed in June 2020 seeking to restrict or reduce the use of force by the police.

AUSTIN, Texas — Changes could be coming to the way the Austin Police Department handles body-worn and dashboard cameras. On Thursday, the Office of Police Oversight released a report with finalized recommendations for the department's camera policies. 

The recommendations released come after City resolutions passed in June 2020 sought to restrict or reduce the use of force by police. The oversight office conducted a three-phase process to help reimagine and guide law enforcement in Austin. 

RELATED: Austin looks to future of police oversight after arbitrator's ruling weakens watchdog agency

In January 2022, the office conducted its first phase: examining the alignment of APD's use of the cameras and best practices. 

Phase two started shortly after in February 2022. During the second phase, the office began engaging with the community to gain feedback on what Austinites felt about current policies. 

In April 2022, the office began its final phase by rewriting policies with community feedback and research from different city police departments across the country.

RELATED: Report: Police oversight voter initiative disqualified from Austin's November ballot

The Office of Police Oversight revealed 17 new recommendations to the APD so it can better serve the community and meet the city's expectations:

  1. Request and use public feedback when writing and developing policies concerning body-worn and dashboard cameras.
  2. Update the purpose of cameras to align with the city's goals of "reducing racial profiling, reducing the use of force, improving community relationships and make it clear that these cameras can play a role in supporting that effort."
  3. Provide clarity on the law, when the law is unclear.
  4. OPO recommends APD revise guidelines concerning when officers need to start and stop recording both audio and video.
  5. APD should require officers to acknowledge camera footage in police reports.
  6. Instruct officers on how to tell civilians their interaction is being recorded.
  7. Require supervisors to ensure cameras are in working condition.
  8. Require camera violations be investigated.
  9. Work with OPO to develop a formal process to incorporate community feedback in policies
  10. Work with OPO to build an engagement process that considers different mediums and formats to balance large-scale, community-wide outreach with targeted outreach aimed at those who have lived experience and are most impacted by policing in Austin and the specific policies under review.
  11. Commit resources to aggregating community feedback for future policies.
  12. Publish a schedule of planned changes for the current General Orders and update as needed.
  13. Provide public information about the source of APD policies.
  14. Publish and explain each policy change.
  15. Make policies accessible to people with disabilities or communication barriers.
  16. Reconsider the role that vendors play in the policymaking process.
  17. Discuss changes resulting from these recommendations with OPO and identify "the processes and resources necessary to act on them."

For more information on the oversight office's finds and recommendations, visit Austin.gov.

RELATED: Austin Office of Police Oversight director resigns

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